Tonight’s game with Belgium is must-win if Scotland are to qualify for Euro 2020 from this group.
Even if the Dark Blues do take the scalp of the world’s No 1 side at Hampden this evening it still may not be enough to secure a top two finish in qualifying Group I for next year’s European Championships.
Realistically we expected to be competing with Russia for second in the section.
But their 2-1 win over the Scots on Friday means after five games there is already a six-point gap between the sides.
A victory against Belgium is needed to give the Dark Blues a chance and restore confidence.
But it’s a huge task for the Scots do get three points against the side at the top of the Fifa rankings.
Given how the first half of this group has panned out it may well be the UEFA Nations League play-off is Scotland’s best chance of reaching the Euros.
Even if that is the case, picking up a positive result against Belgium would be a confidence boost ahead of those games in March.
At the beginning of this group it did look like the Nations League would be our best chance of reaching a major finals for the first time since 1998.
Having been beaten away in Kazakhstan and at home to Russia it’s very difficult to come back.
It is possible Scotland could beat Belgium tonight and Russia in Moscow next month, but it’s highly unlikely.
Too often the national team have been in this position where a miracle result is needed to turn the group around.
It’s unlikely that the miracle results will be achieved, but over the remaining five games as many positive performances and results are needed to build momentum ahead of the Nations League.
Against Russia, Scotland had a magnificent start.
Facing opposition of that quality many thought the Dark Blues would be more tentative, but they went for it early on hitting the post and scoring through John McGinn.
At that point there was a lot of optimism around the result that could be achieved. Then the Scots started to sit back and allow them to show their quality on the ball.
From the 15-minute mark onwards it was poor fare from Scotland and you could see the Russian equaliser coming long before it did.
At the start of the second half Steve Clarke’s men were blown away with Russia getting a second goal and having two or three other good chances.
Scotland got away with it only losing 2-1 because Russia could have scored three, four or five and nobody could have complained.
In the closing stages the Scots players showed the right attitude and tried to fight back.
But at international level, attitude and spirit aren’t enough to get results – it’s quality, organisation, discipline and creativity that get results.
We look at midfield as the strongest area of the Scotland team, but on Friday it didn’t function.
The central midfielders didn’t keep the ball, possession was constantly given away and when you are playing a team who reached the last eight of the World Cup you’re asking for trouble if you can’t keep the ball.
It’s up to Clarke to find the answers but he admitted after Friday’s game that he didn’t know why his side started to get nervous, sit back and give the ball away.
After the performance against Russia there are a lot of questions that need to be answered and hopefully they are tonight.